Foie Gras in Old Bridge!?! New "JUST Restaurant" opens on Route 9
This is a new restaurant that opened in Old Bridge on Route 9 South ; and since my wife and I got lazy on our way to the city and didn't feel like continuing our trek up the Turnpike, we stumbled on this find, which is tucked off Route 9 behind a gas station next to what appeared to be an Asian marketplace
Though mostly invisible to passing traffic on Route 9, once we entered, the modern decor more than compensated for the lackluster location. We were brought the wine list but a pleasant, competent, but obviously nervous staff. While it is not a huge list by any stretch of the imagination, it had some well priced, well chosen options to enjoy. We initially selected a Crozes-Hermitage but as it was not available (distributor had brought a white Crozes-Hermitage and not the red we had selected), we kept with our Rhone Ranger mentality and selected a Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
We were told the chef whose name escapes me, has a long career in restaurants, traning under Wolfgang Puck and a few others, and having opened restaurants in the Boston area.
Bread was brought and was a promising start. Warm Naan Bread that was truly addictive - only issue was that the herb butter presented was served right out of the fridge and too hard.
Amuse Bouche was an Oyster Shooter with Asian Flavors - which provided a briny and flavorful beginning to the meal. This was quite tasty and set the stage for the quality of cuisine to come
The appetizers had a few interesting choices (including Foie Gras sliders that sounded similar to what L'Ateiier de Robuchon serves) but we settled on the Seared Foie Gras with Apple Tartin and Riesling Gelee, the Steak Tartare, and the Duck Risotto with Mango.
Surprised to see such sophisticated offerings behind a gas station, I thoroughly enjoyed the seared foie gras, which came presented on top of three small wrapped pastries (apple tartin) and the flavors all worked together while not overpowering each other. The gelee prep was not the best I've seen but the overall dish was interesting and delicious, and an indication of successes to come. The ratio of pastry to foie gras showed a balance of flavors and techniques that to me, demonstrates a chef committed to thoughtful and flavor combinations
The beef tartare was tasty but nothing earth-shattering. The meat was of high quality but I had hoped for a better flavor overall and found myself overusing the mustard provided as an accompaniment. Maybe a little salt? A good, but not great , dish.
The duck risotto with mango was much better, cooked al dente, and full of herbs and gaminess, counteracted by the sweet and tart mango. My wife loved this and I shared her enthusiasm though kept to myself and finished my foie gras.
We then went to the entree side of the menu, and despite the urge to order the steak with bone marrow (at $45 we opted to be more conservative), we went for the "Quail with Hen of the Wood Mushrooms and Foie Gras" and the "Braised Veal Cheeks."
With plenty of entree options, the menu has something for everyone.
My veal cheeks were (almost too) tender, melting in my mouth and covered with a nice Cabernet based sauce (if I remember correctly???) All in all, a toast to the winter stews I love in the wintertime. It was paired with a polenta that served to mop up the remaining sauce. I would have loved the addition of some more root vegetables or something to that nature, but overall, it was good.
Unfortunately, my wife's quail was overcooked for my liking, and I could not find the foie gras advertised on the menu. In my opinion, the only unsuccessful dish of the night.
Before dessert, we were presented with chocolate truffles which were very tasty. We didn't go for a true dessert, but decided to try the Malted Milk Ball ice cream (which we were told comes from Ciao Bella) which brought the meal to a fitting close. Absolutely delicious!
All in all, this was only their second night in operation, and we were very impressed at the new addition to the Monmouth County food scene. It is easily the most ambitious restaurant on Route 9 from Howell to Sayreville, and has a talented chef and team that promises innovative and exciting cuisine. I'm looking forward to the restaurant as it evolves, and hope its location doesn't impede its success.
Is it possible this is the place that went in next to the international market behind Delta Gas? I always assumed it would be russian food but ...
Thanks for that info, wench31. I checked further on OpenTable. Their website is still under construction: http://www,justrestaurantnj.com.
I'm willing to give JUST a try since it's serving a style of cuisine we very much favor. Until now, restaurants offering it in our immediate area were non-existent. Of course, it remains to be seen if I will agree with gwh912's assessment regarding the quality of the food.
So with the inlaws about to leave for FL and last minute dinner reservations in need for something close and casual, we ended up deciding to explore more of the menu.
Just Sliders: filet of beef and foie gras on bun, with matchstick French fries- tasty - burger was Cooked to a perfect medium and juicy. Only issue for me was foie needed to be slightly bigger to be more prominent flavor (unlike the version at L'Atelier) . This dish screams fun bistro food to me though. I prefer the other foie prep more though it is a good burger nonetheless
Amuse Bouche - scallops with some accompaniments - quite good as was the bread
Caesar Salad- cutesy presentation but pretty standard salad with really nice brioche croutons
Wagyu Beef with Bone Marrow Bone- beef was flavorful and tasty , cooked to requested medium rare. The presentation isn't really "fine dining" but again more bistro style with a wad of matchstick fries on side. Liked the addition of using the small spoon provided to enjoy none narrow
Chilean Sea Bass with agave glaze- this was DELICIOUS and beautifully cooked and seasoned- and I never order fish. Flavors interesting and the simple prep was fantastic. Definitely a dish to order
Lobster Duet: whole lobster (out of shell) and open face lobster ravioli: not our favorite. Ravioli was ok , nothing special but did not enjoy whole lobster. Like the quail, the only unsuccessful dish of night
We opted to go for desserts this time and both were delicious . Just Chocolate was a nice chocolate cake with frozen chocolate mousse ice cream and a shot of steaming hot chocolate. Tasty and nice contrast of textures and temperatures
Cranberry - apple "strudel" - I don't remember the specifics but this was quite good. Father in law raved about it
Overall, everyone enjoyed their meal despite the isolated lobster issue. I would avoid the lobster and quail on the menu but everything else we have tried was tasty and in some cases absolutely delicious. I really hope the restaurant succeeds as everyone is so nice and you can tell the passion from the cooks to the host to who appears to be owner
Keep in mind, they are not Nicholas nor do they appear to be trying to be. They strike a nice balance between a nice dinner out while still remaining casual in dress and even bistro like in some of their presentations, while more fancy in others. With promises for a changing menu, and already seeing different amuses, I believe as they refine the menu further and make a few adjustments, only good things are to come. I would strongly recommend trying for yourself. We are heavily rooting for this restaurants success and hope to include it with Peacock Inn, Elements, Nicholas, Cafe Matisse, drews bayshore bistro, lorenas, Pluckemin Inn and others in our NJ rotation
This is maybe 5 miles from my house. I look forward to checking it out and hope they suceed. If not for CH you would not know this place existed. I drive past here everyday and it is not visible from RT 9. You actually enter the gas station and goto the back building by Emporium. You could easily miss this place.
Well, we had an opportunity to have an early dinner locally last night so I thought I would splurge and TOFTT. The short of it is that while the prices, the presentation, and perhaps the freshness of the ingredients are in line with Nicholas, alas, the cooking is not.
To begin at the beginning...The space is nice and I like what they've done with it. I was told they have plans to create a "lounge" area and have music on the weekends. With a fully stocked bar, this sounds like a good idea to me. I also liked the red and black color scheme that ran all the way to the servers' uniforms, but when I had to unwrap my napkin from its cardboard holder that also said "Just" in red and black I thought it both too much and a bit tacky for a fine restaurant.
We started with one order each of the sliders, duck risotto, caeser salad, and tuna tartare. When the plates arrived there was hope. To a one, they all looked beautiful and you could tell a lot of thought and work went into making a nice presentation. The salad was wrapped up in a cage made of the croutons, the tuna was layered just so, etc. But the crucial next step was not a WOW, in fact not even a wow, more like a nod of the head and a quick, "that's alright".
For mains we had three different fish dishes and one wagyu strip steak with bone marrow. Again the plates looked wonderful - too pretty to eat was one comment. I had the steak and thought the marrow bone was perfectly roasted and the steak a beautiful medium rare as requested. This was the best thing I ate all night and even the sauce ( a demi with shrooms ) was very nice. But this was a nice piece of wagyu beef covered with marrow and I still couldn't muster a wow for it. All the fishes, a branzino, a cod, and a char, were decent enough as well with none of the "I must have this again" we usually coo at even Le Fandy.
Most of us are restricting sugar, so we all shared one struedel for dessert with our coffees. This was a nice piece of pastry with a scoop of nice cinnamon ice cream on top. It left me with the feeling that their pastry chef may be fairly talented, but not enough to want to clean the plate.
With one bottle of wine, a drinkable Dr. Loosen Reisling with an acceptable 75% ish markup over what I paid for the same bottle retail, we spent over $300 for the four of us, making the prices right in line with dinner at Nicholas or Le Fandy. IMHO, too much to pay locally for a decent, but not great meal.
Thanks so much for taking one for the team and for the detailed review. Frankly, the cynic in me is not too surprised. It was really too much to hope for that this restaurant would be of Nicholas's caliber. Not that is has to be, of course. It really depends on exactly what their aim is. If it's to be upscale "formal" dining with cuisine at the Nicholas level, then your experience indicates that isn't happening. Perhaps, they'd have been wiser to start with lower prices so that people's expectations wouldn't be so high.
So last Friday, opportunity presented itself, the wife and I needed a night out and our babysitter miraculously appeared and was availible. Friday is tough night for us to go out. I commute to and from NYC and typically work long hours. Fridays I am exhausted. I am perfectly content ordering pizza and having a beer or a glass of wine. But who am I to look this gift horse in the mouth.
So I made a reservation at JUST for 8:30. While the location is odd, the inside was really nice. It had a hip, posh NYC vibe to it. For those of you on Facebook, the menu is posted to their page. We had a diificult time choosing and since we seldom get out to nice places sans kids, we like to try as much as possible. So rather than order an app and entrees we ordered 3 rounds of apps.
Let me begin by stressing how beautiful the presentation of each dish was. I eat with my eyese too, very high marks on plating and presentation.
Round 1 - We wanted the burrata cheese and roasted beets but they were out of burrata. We opted for the presidential soup and the field of greens salad. It was freezing cold that night so the soup was perfect. It was a beautiful broth served with "exotic" mushrooms and foie gras topped with puff pastry. It was very good but the foie gras did not come through for me. the salad sounds boring but far from it. It was served with a poached pear, candied walnuts, blue cheese, and cherries, very good.
Round 2 - seared scallops on a asparagus purée and shrimp bruschetta served on a tomato based purée. The scallops and poached shrimp were cooked perfectly. On their own they were excellent. The puree on both dishes were just ok.
Round 3 - the JUST sliders and the duck breast risotto. The sliders were beef and foie gras. They were juicy, delicious, and slightly creamy from the foie gras. However saving the best for last, the duck risotto was ridiculous. It was like thanksgiving in a bowl, we loved it, the best dish of the night. Well seasoned with hints of fresh thyme.
Dessert - we had cranberry apple strudel served warm with cinnamon ice cream. Very good and hearty. We also had the 3 ice cream sampler, very good, odd flavors but my memory escapes me for now.
We started with 2 glasses of Pinot frigid, followed by a 1/2 bottle of a nice Russian river Pinot noir. All in, with 20% tip, it ran about $160. Service was good too. this is a pretty good place. They haven't officially launched yet. I was slightly concerned that we were the only diners in the place for the 2 plus hours we were there. Also this is not to be compared with Nicholas. That is an apples and oranges comparison. I wish them well and hope they suceed
Thanks for the kind words.
One other comment, the soup was very tasty with notes of thyme too. The Duck dish had bits of pomegranate too. The menu had flavors that were very late fall early winter. I would guess that the menu will change seasonally.
One correction , meant Pinot Grigio, not Pinot Frigid!....damn spell check
Excellent review, angelo. You obviously had a better experience than seal. That could be due to your decision to forsake the mains in favor of making a meal of the appetizers (the kind of thing we sometimes do with mezzes in Greek and Turkish restaurants). After reading seal's review, I wasn't very keen on going to JUST. But now that I've read yours, I'm again thinking of giving it a try. Might even go the all-apps route like you. :)
Btw, I know you said they haven't "officially launched," However, it's not as though they are doing "friends and family" for a couple of weeks. They are open to the public, the word is out, and they are charging regular prices. If a NJ restaurant is not busy on Friday and Saturday, the chance of its being successful is slim. So, the fact that JUST was empty when you were there does not bode well. But we shall see....
Thank you RGR. I was a little puzzled by their comments regarding the soft opening. I may have misinterpreted but I think they are relying on word of mouth until they are comfortable and worked out some kinks. Not sure what to make of that statement. Time will tell. I do know they are reading these posts and appreciate feed back.
They have not done any advertising in any of the numerous circulars that constantly arrive in our mailbox. Thus, I think you're right that they're relying on word of mouth.
When it comes to ironing out the kinks, that's what the "friends and family"/soft opening is for, so that when the restaurant does open to the public, most of the problems have been addressed. But even after that, it's the rare new restaurants that doesn't need to make adjustments. However, you need patrons in order to do that. So, perhaps, they should do something more proactive to fill the dining room.
Just saw on Facebook that their Website is up and running. Pics of many of their beautifully presented dishes. They also mention that they plan on launching an afterhours lounge. I interpret that as a night club. IMHO I say do one thing and do it well, fine dining or nightclub. You seldom see an establishment do both wothout one of the options suffering. Either way I wish them well. This is in my backyard so a nice option to have without having to schelp to a NYC or further south.
I know a good deal of "don't go" for Valentine's Day gets buzzed about on CH, but my dh and I went to Just for V-day and not only had an amazing price fixe (you can still see the menu on the site) but we've been back twice since. The cocktails are also fantastic.
The vegetable tower and the ginger meatballs are so good and some of the most interesting desserts in NJ.
On my phone so difficult to write an elaborate review but real quick. Sad to say we only got back to Just for the second time and we have been missing out considering such a fine dining g experience can be had so close to our home.
My wife and I ordered and shared 6 apps, 1 dessert and had 3 cocktails. Everything was excellent and I would encourage you to give it a try. We will certainly be back more regularly. High marks to the peach martini, short rib ravioli, crab and shrimp tater tots and the oreo zeppole! All in $150 with a 20% tip. Good service and nice ambiance